Smooth Seas

May 15, 2020

Businesses reassess their core competencies in the eye of the storm

By Graham Bruce, senior global executive consultant


The silver lining in this Covid-19 cloud is that those businesses which focus on their core activity, and strip away or reduce to a minimum all non-essential elements will adapt, will change, and will ultimately go on. 

Certainly it won’t be easy, but businesses that take this enforced opportunity to restructure will eventually profit from it and emerge stronger. As the saying goes “Smooth seas do not make a good sailor.”

The recent pandemic has forced companies to urgently review business operations, and will continue to force us all to analyse our everyday activities. 

Every good company should review their operations on a regular basis with the key objective of identifying those elements of the business which provide the greatest value to customers, and which deliver the highest margins to the bottom line. 

Prior to the current crisis, this was considered recommended good practice for any business. However, this type of review has now become a necessity and must be conducted both quickly and rigorously in order to move forward.

The operational and financial life of many companies will depend on how quickly management can analyse operations and take effective actions. Although it can prove difficult to assess the operational strengths and weaknesses of a company quickly, this is essential. For many businesses that have seen their revenue stream dry up overnight, cost management will be of utmost importance

How might cost management be assessed? Examine the “Good” costs (for example workforce, marketing, automation, I+R+D; they need to be developed and protected while “Bad” costs (expensive offices, bad performers, unnecessary investments, inefficient organisation structures, traditional travel/working methods) will need to be eliminated. A number of companies will be faced with a “question of life or death” and forced to assess noncore business in a purely rational manner – now is the time to pare back to the core business essentials. 

Just as when implementing 5S methodology  which tries to identify the 8 wastes in a process, in the same way all non-essential activity must be identified, and its continuation challenged. Businesses may find this the right time to restructure and implement lean practices which will bear fruit in this environment... for some companies, there won’t be a choice, they will be compelled to cut back to the bare bones

Management teams often become complacent when business is profitable and times are good, but during these boom times, serious operational issues are frequently swept under the carpet, and, if unresolved, result in the business underperforming.

With employees working from home, and many establishments closed, NOW is precisely the time to analyse all aspects of the company in depth, because now there is enough time to do so. As a state of emergency has been declared in many countries, there has been no slow easing into what is being termed the “new normal”. One day a restaurant was full of customers, the next it has to close for three months or more. 

In order to stay in business, my local seafood restaurant started delivering to homes, gave cooking classes online, and offered a takeaway service. At the beginning of the lockdown the menu was reduced to two or three options and was available only at the weekends. Now the restaurant functions every day and the menu has grown to 10 or 12 dishes. The waiters have become delivery drivers, the owner is generating revenue, the business has survived.


Graham Bruce is a senior global executive/freelance consultant with extensive international manufacturing/consulting experience orchestrating establishment, turnaround, expansion, consolidation, and restructuring of diverse manufacturing operations while improving Key Performance Indicator (KPI) delivery. Graham has worked in Europe, the US and the Middle East in the aluminium, steel, paper and plastics sectors.

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